EU says distrust of US on spying may harm terror fight


French President Francois Hollande on the aims of the initiative

EU leaders meeting in Brussels said distrust of the US over spying could harm the fight against terrorism.

A statement agreed by the leaders said that "a lack of trust could prejudice" intelligence-gathering co-operation.

German spy chiefs are travelling to Washington next week to press for action over the alleged monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Both Germany and France want talks with the US to find a new "understanding" by the end of the year.

As well as the bugging of Mrs Merkel's phone, there are claims the US National Security Agency (NSA) has monitored millions of telephone calls by both German and French citizens.

Spain on Friday followed Germany and France in summoning the US ambassador to explain reports of spying on the country.

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In the end, pragmatism out-pointed outrage... but that should not disguise a very real sense of betrayal in parts of Europe”

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The UK's Guardian newspaper has reported that it obtained a confidential memo from the NSA suggesting it had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders.

The latest revelations have been sourced to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who fled the country earlier this year and is now in Russia.

US state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said a review of US intelligence gathering, called for by President Obama, would look at how it affects foreign policy.

The "high level group of outside experts... will consider as part of this how we can maintain the public's trust, how the surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public," she said.

'Vital element'

The EU leaders' statement, released earlier on Friday, reflected their conclusions following talks on Thursday.

It said the recent intelligence issues had raised "deep concerns" among European citizens.

The statement said the leaders "underlined the close relationship between Europe and the USA and the value of that partnership".

David Cameron says he supports France and Germany in seeking talks with US over spying

"[The leaders] stressed that intelligence-gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism," it continued.

And it went on: "A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence-gathering."

"The heads of state or government took note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the USA with the aim of finding before the end of the year an understanding on mutual relations in that field," the leaders' statement also said.

"They noted that other EU countries are welcome to join this initiative."

French President Francois Hollande said the aim of the initiative "is about knowing about the past and setting a framework for the future and putting an end to monitoring mechanisms that are not controlled".

'Five Eyes' agreement

  • Initially a top-secret deal signed between the US and UK in March 1946
  • It committed both nations to sharing communications intelligence, continuing the practices of WWII
  • Later referred to as the "UKUSA Agreement", it formed the basis for intelligence co-operation
  • The agreement was later extended to cover Canada, Australia and New Zealand
  • Other countries also reported to have joined the community
  • The full text of the initial agreement was released by Britain's National Archives in 2005

Germany and France said they are proposing talks with the US to settle the row by the end of the year. But Mrs Merkel stressed Berlin and Paris would be making their own separate approaches to Washington.

BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says the French and Germans are looking for a new set of rules with a "no spying pact" at the core.

He says this would mirror an arrangement the United States has had with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada since just after World War II. That secret intelligence-sharing operation is known as Five Eyes.

Mrs Merkel said she did not know the exact details of the Five Eyes arrangement so could not say whether that is exactly what Germany is seeking, but added: "We need something clear-cut, in line with the spirit of an alliance".

UK Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged the UK's "unique partnership" with the US regarding security but said: "I understand what others want to do and support that, as I think does President Obama".

When asked by the BBC if the US had ever monitored Mr Cameron's phone, White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said: "His communications have not, are not and will not be monitored by the US."

'Look to the future'

The spying revelations have overshadowed other issues at the EU summit in Brussels, including the Mediterranean migration problem, which framed the agenda of Friday's talks.

Italian authorities said they had intercepted some 800 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean as the EU leaders prepared to meet.

A number leaders indicated their support for the French and German position.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said: "The objective must remain the same - to fight against terrorism but also respect privacy.

"Everyone can understand the need for exceptional measures given the danger of terrorism... but we are not in the position where we should spy on each other."

Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt said it was "completely unacceptable" to eavesdrop on the leader of an ally, a view echoed by Italian PM Enrico Letta, who added: "We want the truth."

Angela Merkel: "Once the seeds of mistrust have been sown it doesn't facilitate our co-operation... it makes it more difficult"

Other leaders signalled the need to move on.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said: "The main thing is that we look to the future. The trans-Atlantic partnership was, and is, important."

Mrs Merkel had raised her concerns with US President Barack Obama in a call on Wednesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney later said Mr Obama had assured Mrs Merkel that her phone was not being listened to now and would not be in the future.

However, his statement left open the question of whether calls had been listened to in the past.



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  • Comment number 714.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    Well I guess the fact that Governments feel the need to spy on each other proves that they KNOW you can't trust politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    683.margaret howard

    To be honest., I cannot see why they have referred your comment. I think you were entitled to say what you said, even though I disagree with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    Anyone who thinks other countries are not participating in this kind of activity is naive. The US just happens to have been caught out. Unfortunately we live in a world where covert information gathering at governmental level is the norm, It's been this way for hundreds of years. Governments will complain about it in public,they won't shout too loudly however as they are probably doing the same

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    Hmm..It is ironic and truly Shameful. Where the Europeans too quick to shut thier airspace to prevent Edward Snowden travel to Latin America in support of their ally who has been spying on them? The Russians and Chinese probably know much more now...Sadly

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    Spying may harm terror fight................bunk! May harm credibility though.

    Look at this world......There is a hole in the ozone and the sky is falling. Some crazed guys go nuts and our whole world is changed....why? There are now entire industries & more gov't because of this fear mongering and its aimed at us and our taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    So David Cameron "shares EU concerns over US phone tapping" while the British security services are planting viruses in the routers of Belgian communications provider Belgacom.
    Why the rest of Europe should trust a country that has "a unique security alliance with the US" is beyond me. And if the UK thinks this "unique alliance" is for the mutual benefit of both countries, they're very naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    This just goes to show what many of have been saying all along: the choice between freedom and security is a false one. When the government chooses to violate our rights under the pretext of security, it is the government that we need to be protected from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    701. Quetzal
    America's anti-terrorism and defense umbrellas include Europe,
    Irony being of course we wouldn't need a bloody umbrella if the US didn't keep meddling in the Middle East.

    Icing on the cake? Blighty is expected to trot into US driven wars at the drop of a hat and UK has idiotic US botty licking Ministers like the clowns Cameron and Hague who will do just that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    Will the US now apologise to Snowdon et al ?

    Probably not. For all their character flaws we owe people like Snowdon and Assange a debt of gratitude for exposing the extent to which ordinary people are spied upon by our own and foreign governments. Nobody trusts politicians any longer. (If they ever really did)

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    This recent and very embarrassing situation shows how important to have some accepted international standards . Here we have European leaders crying foul when they have condoned spying on other people and countries. Now in enormous double standards they are surprised to find themselves being targeted . There cannot be one rule for some another for others. If you do this is what happens

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    You can spy for us, but you cannot spy on us. That is just not fair, you naughty people you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.


    "remember the Romans Empire became so powerful and then it imploded

    ...USA needs to take a look at itself in the mirror..."

    Applies far more to the rubbish called the "EU"

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    America's anti-terrorism and defense umbrellas include Europe, to Europe's significant benefit. Do Europeans really believe that international terrorism can be countered without monitoring international communications? As for Chancellor Merkel, does she really conduct sensitive government business on an unsecured cell phone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    The current situation is a win win to the home born Terrorists who penetrated the West thru Democracy and the Spy scandal now creating a crack between the Atlantic. The damage is done but past historical ties shall prevail in giving a solution to the issue with all concerned learning from their mistake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    I've just heard that both the US and the UK have been shown to have used prism for INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE in Italy.
    Source : France Info / Der Spiegel

    Well, well, well ... So much for the War on 'terror' ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    I wonder if Mrs Merkel gets phone texts like mine:

    'Have you been conned into putting your money into Greek banks ? You could be owed millions in compensation.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    remember the Romans Empire became so powerful and then it imploded

    US has lost the plot

    yes people spy on each other its for economic gain on your allies ????????
    USA needs to take a look at itself in the mirror ...achieving alienation distrust hysteria
    US continues to divide rule and conquer

  • Comment number 696.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    You mean someone who had the decency to blow the whistle on his own country for behaving like the Stasi - the very enemy that used to protect the free world from?

    I'd knight him - he's a lot more worthy than the offshore billionaire leeches sitting in our legislative machinery.


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